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It was far from pretty but qualifying all that matters to Man City, admits De Bruyne

Bor M'gladbach 1 - Manchester City1

By Tim Rich

Published 24/11/2016

Starring role: David Silva is mobbed by his City team-mates after scoring the equaliser that ultimately booked a knockout place
Starring role: David Silva is mobbed by his City team-mates after scoring the equaliser that ultimately booked a knockout place

Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne admitted the result was more important than the performance as Manchester City ground out a 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages.

City failed to replicate the intensity of their victory over Barcelona earlier this month, and both sides had a man sent off in a disjointed game, but David Silva's equaliser ensured their progress from Group C.

Raffael gave City cause for concern with a superb strike midway through the first half at a lively Borussia-Park but Silva changed the complexion of the game just before the interval.

The dismissals of Lars Stindl and Fernandinho for second bookable offences early in the second half sucked life out of the game and City ended up playing for the final whistle.

When asked if the result was more important than the performance, De Bruyne said: "Yes, the result. After we got the red card we killed the game and that was the most important thing.

"It is not nice to see but we are through and that is the most important thing. It was very tough. They are very compact and even before they scored they just wanted to defend."

Speaking about Silva's goal in first-half stoppage time, the Belgium international added: "It was a good goal but it was a tough first half and we played even better in the second. We can do better but that's not most important today."

Given the breadth of his achievements, qualifying City for the knockout stages was a pretty low bar for Pep Guardiola. It has, however, been a more troublesome journey than he might have anticipated, especially away from the Etihad.

This was not on the scale of the debacle at the Nou Camp, nor did it reach the frantic excitement of the 3-3 draw at Parkhead, but it was still a fiercely competitive night.

Barca's victory over Celtic means City cannot top the group, which may not be a disaster. As it stands, both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are on course to finish second.

At Bayern, Guardiola had never particularly enjoyed his games against Monchengladbach and this was no different. The side who in Manchester in September had suffered their heaviest European defeat in 31 years proved they could still be a thorn in his flesh.

Monchengladbach tackled, hassled and in Stindl had someone who was not afraid to impose himself. A few minutes after the interval, already on a yellow card, Stindl imposed himself rather too much on Nicolas Otamendi and was dismissed.

For someone supposedly skippering his team, it was ludicrously stupid, especially as they had already lost Ibrahima Traore to injury. They now had to play a Guardiola team for 40 minutes with 10 men. In fact it was eight because Fernandinho, who was also on a yellow card, pulled back Raffael and was sent off, to the fury of his manager. The contest became a very open 10 v 10.

His role in the opening goal was something for Stindl to look back on with something other than frustration. Midway through the first half, John Stones made a mess of trying to contain him.

The Monchengladbach captain squared the ball for Raffael. The Brazilian appeared to have taken one touch too many but appearances were misleading and the 31-year-old's next touch was to send the ball thundering past Claudio Bravo.

Monchengladbach kept pushing forward and when Oscar Wendt muscled his way past Fernandinho, Bravo was forced to spread himself superbly.

By then, Guardiola had been forced to alter his tactics. The back three with which City had begun the evening was abandoned, a move that saw Jesus Navas playing right-back and Raheem Sterling swapping flanks. Immediately, City looked a different, better-balanced team.

For a side whose last Champions League fixture had seen them sweep aside Barca, City had begun looking anaemic in everything but their orange and purple kit.

It was De Bruyne who raised their play. First, he produced the ball that Ilkay Gundogan brought under control and then, almost in the same movement, lashed low to force Yann Sommer into a fine save. Gundogan grew up not too far away in Gelsenkirchen, and for his family who had come to watch, this was a moment to savour.

As the electronic scoreboard counted down to half-time, City relentlessly increased the rhythm. Sterling, breaking through, probably should have shot but pulled back for Sergio Aguero, whose drive was gathered by Sommer at the second attempt.

Then, in first-half stoppage time, De Bruyne pulled a cross back from the byline and Silva restored the evening to its expected course.

MONCHENGLADBACH: Sommer, Elvedi, Christensen, Jantschke, Wendt, Traore (Hofmann, 41 mins), Dahoud (Vestergaard, 60 mins), Strobl, Johnson, Stindl, Raffael (Hahn, 84 mins). Unused subs: Sippel, Nico Schulz, Benes, Rutten.

Man City: Bravo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Stones, Kolarov, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva, Jesus Navas, Aguero, Sterling (Sagna, 68 mins). Unused subs: Caballero, Fernando, Nolito, Sane, Clichy, Iheanacho.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph

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